In the HR area, the aspect of valuing the individuality of all employees is increasingly coming to the fore. Companies that want to authentically pursue the principles of “New Work” are encouraged to support their employees on a personalized, i.e. personality-based, level. In coaching practice, the consideration of personality is also a central component in order to better understand behavioral patterns and promote individual development processes.
For this reason, numerous HR experts and coaches are increasingly relying on personality analysis. Although I strongly support this progress, I often notice recurring errors. Here I present my personal top 5, even if this list should by no means be viewed as exhaustive – feel free to comment on what I have overlooked or which aspects should definitely be added.
1. Leave the users alone with the results
20 managers complete a personality analysis, receive their results, and then follow… silence. True to the motto “Read it and make the most of it”. The benefit of such an approach is limited. It would be much more effective to at least enable a joint discussion of the results or, even better, to integrate the personality analysis into a personnel development measure, coaching, or workshop. Working with personality analysis delivers really good results when the results are applied to a specific topic and a specific question. The basic question is: “What influence does my personality have on this issue and how can it contribute to the solution?”
2. Thinking in extreme values and categories
Personality traits should be understood as a continuum, not as an “either-or.” In the case of introversion/extraversion, this means that nobody is exclusively introverted or extroverted. No one is “the extravert.” Rather, the essential questions should be: Where on the spectrum between extreme introversion and extreme extraversion is the person in question? What are the proportions of introversion and extraversion to each other? In which contexts does something emerge? Which sub-facets of these broad personality dimensions should still be considered?
3. Not sufficiently incorporating the halo effect into the analysis
It often happens that a particular personality trait is overrated so that it overshadows all other traits and the person is subsequently reduced. For example: “Conscientiousness is so strong, this person must be a pedantic perfectionist!” However, the fact that the person has many other personality traits that would be just as relevant in the overall perspective is completely ignored. This problem is of course particularly pronounced in so-called type tests, in which the entire personality is condensed into one characteristic.
4. Lack of transparency when using the instrument
The use of personality analysis should always be accompanied by adequate communication. It should be clear: what is the goal and purpose? Who has insight into the results? What happens to them afterwards and what happens next? In this way, many fears and resistances can be quickly overcome, because modern personality analysis are instruments FOR the users and deliver appreciative results instead of deficit-oriented evaluations or judgments.
5. Present the results as the ultimate, “set in stone” truth
Every personality analysis, regardless of its quality, contains a certain measurement error, because it is a model of personality, and models can naturally never represent reality 100 percent. We cannot measure a construct like “personality” as precisely as our height. This means that the results can only ever represent an approximation of the “real” personality of the individual; a certain degree of uncertainty always remains. This makes it all the more important to use valid models of personality – such as the Big Five model – to rely on reliable testing procedures and to discuss or contextualize the results competently.